The Sunday Leader

Losing Weight

By Dr. Marcel de Roos – Psychologist PhD

Obesity is a problem that can lead to various health complications

The percentage of overweight people in Sri Lanka is a growing concern. Although there are no exact island-wide statistics available, international data is alarming. According to a recent worldwide study in The Lancet more than half a billion men and women are clinically obese (one woman in seven and one man in ten). That’s nearly twice as much dangerously overweight people than in 1980. For overweight people (a preliminary stage of obese) the results suggest that being overweight affects one in three (!) adults. Although the problem is most prevalent in the richer nations (the USA and in a lot of European states), many developing countries are catching up.
Research shows that being overweight or obese can dramatically increase the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia and other serious illnesses. Overweight can be determined in two ways: measuring if your weight “fits” with your length and the measurement of your waist. The latter is a good way to determine the amount of your body fat.
The causes of being overweight are basically eating too much and insufficient exercise. Heredity plays a minor role and being overweight seldom stems from a disease. When you eat more than your body needs, the nutrients are transformed into body fat. You are prone to become overweight:
·    when one or both parents are overweight;
·    when you were raised in a family with an unhealthy dietary pattern (many sodas, beers, oily snacks and sweets) and insufficient exercise (spending much time in the car, in front of the TV or computer);
·    when as a child you were comforted or rewarded with sweets;
·    when you have a tendency to eat away your emotional problems;
·    when you were raised in a dysfunctional family or when you were abused;
·    when you have the habit to start eating or drinking when faced with stress;
·    when you have quit smoking;
·    when your appetite increases because of the side-effects of certain medications (for instance anti-depressants);
·    when you have an underactive thyroid.
The best way to start losing weight is the gradual way. Maintaining a strict diet is very difficult. Moreover, temporarily reducing your food intake in a stringent way only has an effect in the short term (the yo-yo effect).
Most important is to try to find out WHY you overeat. It is about feelings, not about the thoughts. With many people emotions (from their past) play a significant role. It’s essential that you should assess this and strive to acquire more balanced feelings. Spend sufficient time on this because it is vital. Exercising and dieting are relatively easy, but maintaining your weight demands a good insight into your reasons for overeating. This way you avoid the feared yo-yo effect and you maintain a healthy life style. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to motivate yourself with willpower (it will last only for a limited period). Living healthy and maintaining a reduced weight should be a way of life instead of a rigid goal.
In order to lose weight it is particularly important to eat less; exercise is accommodating the process. One has to do a lot of physical activity to lose weight purely by that alone. Start the day with a good breakfast. Avoiding breakfast is not a good idea because you will feel hungry during the day and you will consume more calories with your other meals.
Don’t omit any other meal. Regular meals during the day help to keep the body alert and make the metabolism work, thus increasing the combustion. Food deprivation is one of the biggest mistakes in an attempt to lose weight, because it leads to a sharp drop in blood sugar which will lead you to eat more. Eat healthy and varied food and reduce your fat, sugar and alcohol intake. When your body gets fewer calories than it consumes, its fatty tissue diminishes.
Choose a form of exercise which you like doing. Individual or in a group, indoor or outside, pick up a sport or go walking. Don’t underestimate the daily opportunities like taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking short distances instead of taking the car and doing domestic chores.   Physical exercise is good for you whether you are trying to lose weight or not. You will lose weight, you will sleep better at night, you will feel more energetic from it and it’s beneficial for your heart and whole body.
Discover your personal emotional reasons for overeating, inform yourself thoroughly about the topic weight loss, develop your individual way of dealing with overeating, make a plan and create your new way of life.

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